between a Grand Tour and the Absa Cape Epic
Nic Dlamini is having a baptism by fire at The Race That Measures All, but as a true pro he is taking it all in his stride.
Nic Dlamini has an amazing pro road pedigree having competed in Grand Tours such as the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain, and winning the best climber at the Tour Down Under and Tour of Britain in 2018. He also raced for the South African road team at Tokyo 2020. The 2022 Absa Cape Epic is his first-ever mountain bike race. Let that sink in for a second.
Nic is partnered with a veteran (and big character) of The Race That Measures All, Oli “Pinner” Munnik. The team are racing as Absa Amawele in reference to the Xhosa word for twins, ‘amawele’ as they are both twins. For both halves of the team, it will be a very new experience.
“You need to understand one thing,” says Oli. “Nic is a pro. He is the consummate pro. He jumped on the mountain bike and has just been like a sponge, soaking it all in. Plus he has Watts. Plenty and plenty of watts, so it’s not like he’s struggling up the hills or on the flats as any other newbie mountain biker would. By the end of this week he is going to be a mountain biker.”
We asked Nic to talk us through some of the big differences between a Grand Tour and the Absa Cape Epic.
There is no mobile barber at this stage race.
Before the Tour starts and every rest day you can book an appointment with the mobile barber and have a little groom. You know, the guys want to look ‘fresh’ when they get some TV time, so many get a cut before and others during also. If there was one here I reckon Pinner would need to go pay him a visit with that mullet of his!
Early starts in Africa.
With any race in Europe and the Grand Tours you know you’re able to get a lot of rest because the starts are very late in the day. Long days start at 11 and even later. At the Absa Cape Epic, you start at 07:00 which is super early. It makes recovery very different than at a Grand Tour - you kind of need to eat in instalments. Also eating three hours before the start is almost impossible. What is crucial is to keep feeding on the bike because everything you do today is going to influence how you feel tomorrow. You fuel today for tomorrow.
The setup on a mountain bike is significantly different to a road bike.
I’m really feeling the bike setup on my back. I wasn’t feeling it in training, because it was all pretty chilled, but the intensity and stress of the stages have added to that, I think, especially the gnarly descents on Stage 1, I was death-gripping my bars.
The cornering is completely different.
You have to start on the outside, go through the turn and then finish on the outside, but it’s been so slippery and loose over the first few stages that there have not been many corners you can fully trust. Also, it’s been quite a challenge to learn to shift my weight and lean to the ‘outside’ while putting pressure on the inside of your tyre. Thanks to Oli I’m getting there though.
Not knowing exactly what the route looks like.
I’m so used to having all the information of the stage at hand. For example on a Tour climb we know exactly what the gradient of each climb is and for how long that lasts, where the small flats are and where it kicks up again. So you mentally you know not to push too hard early and you know when to rev it again. On the Epic it is nothing like that, for example on the Stage 1 climb up to Lourensford Saddle, we knew it would be steep but we didn’t know how steep and for how long.
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